Yesterday, Nintendo surprised fans with the SNES Classic, a mini console that bundles together 21 of the best classic games from the company’s 16-bit console in one tiny package. But perhaps no one was more surprised than veteran game creator Dylan Cuthbert, who learned the gadget would include one additional surprise: his long-canceled game, Star Fox 2. Yesterday evening, Cuthbert and several members of the original Star Fox 2 team went out to have a much-belated launch party for a game they’d made two decades earlier.
Star Fox 2 was a sequel the 1993 original, which saw Nintendo branch out in a new direction with a sci-fi-themed rail shooter on the SNES. In the game, Fox McCloud and a team of anthropomorphic animals / pilots defend their home planet from powerful alien invaders. The game let players pilot an angular craft called the Arwing, as they battled robots, alien creatures, and spaceships through expansive levels.
Star Fox was also one of the most technically impressive SNES games. By utilizing a new graphics processor called the Super FX, the team behind the original Star Fox were able to squeeze 3D graphics onto a console built for 2D games. Star Fox was the first Nintendo game to use polygonal graphics, setting in motion the company’s trend from 2D to 3D gaming. A big reason for that accomplishment was the technical wizardry of Cuthbert and his team at British developer Argonaut Software, who worked with Nintendo on the game.
Star Fox 2
When it came time to create a sequel, the team similarly wanted to make something that would wow players on a technical level. They set to work on not only designing a new game, but also developing a new version of the Super FX chip that would offer twice the memory and significantly faster processing. They experimented with all kinds of ideas, including the ability to pilot your ship using a full 360-degree range of motion. Cuthbert says that he rebuilt the original Star Fox engine “considerably” to fit all of these new ideas and gameplay features.
The game wasn’t merely a prototype; it was completed. The press was even shown demos at CES in 1995. But Star Fox 2 took a long time to develop — so long that the final product showed its age as new, more powerful platforms like the original Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn were released.
“The release [of Star Fox 2] got set back about a year or so, and half a year later, the Nintendo 64 system was due to come out, so we thought, ‘Is it too late to ask people to shell out for this?’” Nintendo design luminary Shigeru Miyamoto explained in an interview with the late Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. “And other companies’ game consoles were using polygons all over the place, so we didn’t think we could catch up even if we stuck this expensive chip in the cartridge, so we rethought it.”
The decision was made to cancel Star Fox 2, though many of its ideas — like 360-degree flying and the introduction of a tank vehicle — made their way into Star Fox 64, which was released in 1997. “We wanted to use that structure from Star Fox 2 to make scenes with a stronger sci-fi bent, and we wanted to make the Arwing feel more comfortable to fly,” Miyamoto explained. When former Nintendo programmer Kazuaki Morita started experimenting with the N64, Miyamoto realized it was the right platform for these ideas. “When I saw those, I thought, ‘Ah, now we can make it like a science fiction film!’” he explained.
Cuthbert, meanwhile, went on to found Kyoto-based studio Q-Games, best known for the “Pixeljunk” series of experimental games. Years later, Cuthbert would return to Star Fox when Q partnered with Nintendo to create a remake of Star Fox 64 on the Nintendo 3DS. “The idea was to faithfully recreate the contents of Star Fox 64,” Cuthbert, who served as director on the project, explained during the same interview with Iwata. He described the 3DS version as “a rebirth.”
Having moved on to new companies and projects, Cuthbert and the original Star Fox 2 development team aren’t directly involved with the release on the SNES Classic — which explains his surprise at yesterday’s announcement. “I wonder if this is a first?” Cuthbert wrote on Twitter. “We mastered Star Fox 2  years ago and it’s finally getting a release. Guinness World record?”
If we’re going to speak on 2016’s best video games, then we have to delve into the ones that returned for the better.
Remakes and remasters are still a trend in the world of gaming (which is a good/bad thing, depending on who you are). Plenty of past titles that didn’t get the appreciation it deserved upon release have been updated for the better. Collections that featured outstanding experiences spruced up those games for loyal/future fans. And even some of these picks we’re about to recommend added in new content and streamlined the experience for today’s gaming audience. Return to these games (that have gotten a new lease on life) ASAP.
These are our “definitive” picks for 2016’s finest video game remakes and remasters.
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Near the late-end of the PS2’s life cycle, a slew of underrated and sadly ignored titles graced the console. The original version of Odin Sphere happens to fall into that category. It was Vanillaware’s passion project, which is why it’s no surprise that the Japanese developer revisited it for modern Sony consoles. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir not only updates the visuals and makes the art pop even more, it also streamlines the game’s problematic mechanics for the better. Characters now have the ability to perform more defending/dodging actions, new enemies/bosses were added and the melee combo action got vastly improved. Fans of Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon’s Crown should make sure to check out this quality remaster.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
Call of Duty truly morphed into the FPS franchise to beat when Modern Warfare launched in 2007. While some fans have moved on from the more futuristic-centric entries in the series, Activision made sure to bring some fans back with a remaster of its classic entry. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered did an incredible job refining the visuals by enhancing the textures and adding high-range lighting. Besides that, the super memorable campaign is kept intact along with its quality online multiplayer suite. The only caveat to getting this remaster is the fact that it only comes as a part of the Infinite Warfare package (which isn’t all the way bad). Might as well get the latest COD with an even better rendition of Modern Warfare.
Ratchet & Clank
2016’s Ratchet & Clank isn’t so much a remake or a remaster; it’s a “re-imagining.” Ignore the lackluster film based on Insomniac Games’ platforming icons and just play this incredible game. Playing this thing will have everyone around you thinking you’re watching the latest Pixar movie. Yeah, it looks THAT good! Along with the amazing visuals, it throws in the best parts of past installments in the series in order to make this the best way to revisit the very 1st game. There’s a bunch of varied action setpieces, tons of collectibles, new weaponry (the Pixelizer is amazing in action) and the game’s not just some easy cakewalk. Take on the challenge of Ratchet & Clank. You won’t be disappointed.
Gravity Rush Remastered
It’s sad to say this, but this PS Vita original didn’t have much of a huge audience due to its portable exclusivity. When the gaming world learned that it was coming to the PS4, us and everyone else rejoiced. Gravity Rush Remastered brings such a vibrant, action-packed adventure back to life in the best ways possible. Of course the graphics have been spruced up even more. But it also adds in all the DLC that’s been previously released (we’re talking a ton of additional missions) and motion controls that’s powered by DualShock 4. Nothing is lost in translation with this quality remaster.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
One of Sega’s most slept-on releases has to be their interesting take on strategy RPG’s – the cult hit known as Valkyria Chronicles. Originally released in 2008, this tactics driven experience brought the best elements of 3rd-person aiming/shooting and strategic movement together. It featured a tightly woven plot that delved into the harsh realities of war. If you happened to miss it beforehand, Sega did you a solid by bringing it back to modern consoles. This remastered take on such a strong RPG features redone visuals, past DLC, English/Japanese vocal audio and the same excellent gameplay it’s known for.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
One of the more divisive entries in the long-running adventures of Link is the GameCube/Wii entry Twilight Princess. For those who actually enjoyed this darker take on The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo did right by you be re-releasing it for the Wii U. The game’s HD edition features Wii U GamePad compatibility, which makes accessing the map and Link’s expansive inventory a simpler affair. That fancy looking Wolf Link Amiibo that comes with it grants you access to a whole new dungeon (the Cave of Shadows), so there’s a new piece of content there if you’re looking for it. Add in the new difficulty mode and you arrive with the best version of Twilight Princess.
With the release of the new Playstation VR, I was thinking back on the beginnings of the video game. I came from the generation of the Atari 2600 where there were tennis games like above, pong, centipede and we thought this was amazing. The feeling then of playing video games was something novel it was a totally new industry. No more going to the local arcades to play games, and at the arcades in the 80’s I pretty much stuck with the pinball machines now you barely hear or see anymore about pinball.
I graduated from the Atari 2600 to the commodore 64 because my parents thought it would help me in school with the different programs for math , which I had some difficulty in . I think I had many one math program for the Commodore and a bunch of video games. My favorite game for the Commodore was the WWE Micro League Wrestling.
Now as you can see by the above video, the game was slow as hell compared to today’s WWE 2k17. But it was a real match that was just made digital and I loved every minute of it. This is all we had, so it was great to us, now I played the same game and was like WTF!!!…But there was a wow factor in these games of Commodore and Atari that is not there in today’s world and today’s video games. We have been made to accustomed to technology where even virtual reality is now like EH its good…..whats next??
I wish we could go back to the time when things had that WOW factor . Maybe we need a new technology to come out like holograms or something to give us that WOW factor back. The Atari and Commodore were the front runners of everything you see today. From Frogger, Tennis, Pong, Micro League Wrestling they were all the granddaddy’s of today’s technology. We need the WOW factor back in technology….What will bring that back????
One of the great joys of a new gadget is the ritual unboxing: inside that box containing a smartphone or virtual reality headset is a world of possibilities. And it turns out unboxings can be just as fun when the gadget in question is really old.
As part of a retrospective series on The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo’s Japanese site recently posted a number of photos of the inside of a company storage room. That may not sound all that exciting, but it turns out the room contains a number of virtually untouched Famicom consoles still in their original boxes. (The Famicom is the Japanese version of the NES, which first launched in 1983 — and will soon be available as an adorable plug-and-play mini-console.) It’s joined by a stack of Disk Systems, a Famicom add-on that made it possible to use floppy discs with the console.
Not only is the post a great look at a near-mint-condition 30-year-old console, it ends on the best possible note: it still works! The unseen Nintendo employee manages to hook one of the consoles up to a nearby tube TV to play, what else, some Legend of Zelda.
Whenever a collection of classic games is released, I always find myself picking it up. Despite not usually having nostalgia for these retro packages (as my first console was the Genesis), I enjoy learning more about the medium that I love, and they’re typically a good way to experience games that I missed out on. Unfortunately, a lot of these end up being hit-or-miss; for every one game I end up loving, there are often a handful of titles that are only interesting to look at through a historical lens.
The latest retro video game collection comes in the form of Atari Flashback Classics Volume 1. This $20 collection features 50 games in total, with 9 being arcade games, and 41 Atari 2600-era titles. Since the games are the reason why anyone would pick this up, and there are way too many of them to touch on individually, here’s the full list of arcade titles: Black Widow, Centipede, Liberator, Lunar Lander, Millipede, Pong, Space Duel, Tempest, and Warlords.
Meanwhile, here are the 41 Atari 2600 games: 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, Air-Sea Battle, Backgammon, Basketball, Black Jack, Bowling, Canyon Bomber, Centipede, Circus Atari, Combat, Combat Two, Desert Falcon, Dodge ‘Em, Fatal Run, Football, Home Run, Human Cannonball, Millipede, Miniature Golf, Pong Sports, Quadrun, Radar Lock, Realsports Boxing, Realsports Football, Realsports Soccer, Realsports Volleyball, Save Mary, Slot Machine, Slot Racers, Sprintmaster, Star Raiders, Steeplechase, Stunt Cycle, Super Baseball, Super Football, Swordquest EarthWorld, Swordquest FireWorld, Swordquest WaterWorld, Tempest, Warlords, and Yars’ Revenge.
As you can see, 50 games is a lot. The biggest name on the list would be arcade hits like Centipede, Pong, Tempest and Warlords, but the Atari 2600 list isn’t too shabby either. Volume 1 features both of the Combat games (although I’d only recommend playing the original, as the iconic tank combat game’s sequel seems like a total step backwards from the simple fun that the original offers), and a lot of sports games. One thing that Atari did a deviously good job at was splitting the must-have titles between Volume 1 and Volume 2, making sure that retro fans would pick up both.
The big issue that past collections have had is properly controlling the games given the change in input devices. A lot of these games used the Atari 2600’s paddle controller, which hasn’t been seen in decades (besides the super rad Nintendo DS accessory Taito put out). Games like Pong and Warlords feel terrible when using an analog stick, as it just doesn’t offer the precision needed for those titles. That’s a problem that Atari Flashback Classics has to tackle, and I feel like they’ve done a pretty solid job even if they didn’t completely solve the issue.
Each paddle game can be played in three ways: A) with the analog stick where it resets to the center after the player lets go of the stick, B) using the D-pad to move the paddle and then holding it there (it doesn’t reset position), and C) using the DualShock 4’s touchpad as a replacement paddle. I found using the touchpad to generally be the best solution (although it varies from game to game), and I actually had a good time playing these titles that are hard to port. It isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than giving players a single option.
Since Atari Flashback Classics is primarily comprised of games from the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was expecting a lot of the games to be dated. That is definitely the case, and quite frankly a lot of the offerings here are titles that I booted up once and never had any desire to play again. That said, while they offer little in the fun department, they do have plenty of historical value and seeing them preserved is great. I’ll never play Black Jack or Slot Machine again, but I’m glad they’re available.
Some of the surprise stand-outs of Volume 1 ended up being Save Mary, a game where I attempted to save a young girl (who I assume is named Mary) from drowning by lowering blocks she could climb, and Fatal Run, a racing game released in 1989 (yes, somehow the 2600 was still getting new games just a few years before I was born). While neither are as good as Tempest or Millipede, they’re games that I would’ve never played if it wasn’t for this collection, and I feel like that’s why these packages are so important.
While there are probably only a dozen games or so that I actually enjoyed playing (such as 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe, a game I’ve put probably 30 rounds into and lost every single time), that’s more than enough for me. This clearly isn’t about playing the latest and greatest games, it’s about taking a look at the history of gaming, and in that aspect, it totally succeeds.
There are also some really nice extras added in on the presentation side. Players can view the manuals for all of the Atari 2600 titles, which is a really cool and thoughtful thing to do. There is one issue, though, as sadly the photo viewer’s instructions can’t be hidden from the screen, so the bottom of the manuals are often obscured when zoomed in. That’s a bummer, but hopefully it’ll get fixed in a patch. Another awesome touch is that the game’s cartridge artwork are shown when selecting each title. It’s the small things that make a collection like this feel like a labor of love, and not a cash grab on nostalgia.
Finally, there are some great modern additions such as online multiplayer for games (you can even play games while you wait for someone to join your online lobby), and online leaderboards for the arcade games. The multiplayer is where I feel like the game really shines because even if Realsports Boxing is terrible in 2016, I still managed to laugh hysterically while playing it with a buddy. It’s also pretty cool to see that I’m apparently the number 6 player of Black Widow in the entire world (despite being terrible at it). While it doesn’t go as far as Microsoft’s Game Room did in allowing players to view the replays of high-score runs, it’s still a great addition.
Obviously, this package won’t be for everyone. But if you’re looking for a solid way to play Tempest and Centipede, or just looking to learn about the Atari 2600, then I easily recommend this solid retro collection.
This review is based on the PS4 version, which we were provided with.
The Sega Genesis, known as the Mega Drive in most regions outside North America, is a 16-bit home video game console which was developed and sold by Sega Enterprises, Ltd. The Genesis was Sega’s third console and the successor to the Master System. Sega first released the console as the Mega Drive in Japan in 1988, followed by a North American debut under the Genesis moniker in 1989. In 1990, the console was distributed as the Mega Drive by Virgin Mastertronic in Europe, by Ozisoft in Australasia, and by Tec Toy in Brazil. In South Korea, the systems were distributed by Samsung and were known as the Super Gam*Boy, and later the Super Aladdin Boy.